Territorialization, scarcity, and value production : a transcultural study of China-Myanmar jadeite trade
Jadeite has evolved from a mysterious curio in far-flung frontier lands into an object of commodity fetishism in contemporary society. Not only do the Chinese regard it as the most expensive and rare jade species, it also has an important impact on Myanmar's political landscape. The question this dissertation wants to address is what kind of power relations and exchange actions are deployed to construct the scarcity of a cultural consumer product that spans history and cross-culture, such as jadeite, so that its price has reached unprecedented levels. I use the concept of "territorialization" as a theoretical paradigm to exam this issue which indicates the process of repeated de-territorialization and re-territorialization of multi-scale and multi-dimensional spaces by different cross-cultural power subjects. The research uses multi-sited linguistic ethnography as a methodology, focusing on translation and language use from a diachronic and social perspective when tracing the flow of jadeite and cross-cultural subjects' perceptions and evaluations. The study found that the scarcity of jadeite is constantly shaped and constructed, and its dramatic price changes are closely related to changes in national boundaries and the spatial production of power. This process can be divided into two stages. First, with the development of the southwest border area by the imperial court of China, the Han people brought jade culture to this area and discovered jadeite from it, thus forming the jadeite trade exchange among Han, Kachin and Shan in the area. Second, after the boundaries of modern countries, the origin and market of jadeite were cut off, and the two nation-states territorialized the jadeite trade within their respective territories to obtain more benefits. Multiple powers participate cross-culturally, continuously forming more complex and segmented labor aggregations, and becoming dis-embedded from the original order. Therefore, the value of jadeite has accumulated significantly in quantity and continues to expand in nature or content. In short, jadeite itself is just a kind of stone and has no use value, but Chinese culture endows it with special symbolic meaning, so it assumes value. However, the origin of its raw materials is an border area of "China". There, jadeite has no meaning and symbol, and the territorialization makes it valuable. In addition, due to the inter-ethnic conflict in the place of origin, the national and local competition further increases its scarcity and concurrently also its value.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp & Yunnan University , 2023
284 p.
Supervisor: Pang, Ching Lin [Supervisor]
Supervisor: He, Ming [Supervisor]
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Creation 09.11.2023
Last edited 10.11.2023
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